Thursday, June 29, 2017

Healthy Teachers In The Schools

Don't be this teacher.
A teacher friend asked about how to be healthier in the next school year. She's young, in a higher pressure school, and untenured. Our situations are different, but here’s what I do. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder to myself.

Check school email infrequently.

I check email before kids arrive each morning, disposing of most of it without replies. This cuts clutter and sets boundaries: I reply only to important email. I resist the urge to check email again until after noon if even then. I get complaints that I reply too slowly but nothing really requires a reply in less than twenty-four hours. It can wait. So can impatient people.

Leave school at school.

Here’s some heresy: I don’t check school email at home and I never bring school work home. Never. Ever.  
I want to be a good father and husband, son and brother, friend and neighbor. To do that, I must be present. At school, I’m a teacher. At home, I'm not. If I have work left after contract time, I'm using school time inefficiently. If I stay late at school, I take time from those I love. That’s all the perspective I need.

Read books.

This school year I read fifty-one books. I built independent reading time into classes to be a better reader which makes me a better writer which makes me a much better teacher.

Exercise and Sleep.

I have a system of being active every day. It’s a priority. This morning I walked the dog for half an hour. I'll run later. If I don’t take care of my body, I’m a lousy person, a lousy teacher.
I need eight hours sleep to be fully present. Anything in the way of that, including schoolwork, makes me a worse teacher and person. Skimping on sleep is a disservice to myself and those who depend on me.  

You do you.

My school is run poorly. I’ve banged my head against that and gotten concussions rather than change. I made a suggestion this June that was rejected rudely, reminding me that I’m responsible for my classes not the school. I’m frustrated the school runs poorly but don't waste much time on it. I do me.

Understand the relationship.

Students are rarely mad at me; they are often mad near me. They rarely do things to me, but often do thing near me. Letting their rage roll off me, I transform our lives, theirs and mine.
Students aren’t my friends. We are colleagues. I’m not their parent; I’m their teacher. Knowing who I am in relation to them took me twenty years to learn, but I’m a slow learner.

Say no sometimes.

When my admin asked for volunteers to do summer work I stayed quiet. When asked to be on a committee, I decline. There is training scheduled in July, but I’ll be on vacation at home.
I often hear “but this has to get done.” I say no to most of these things, politely but firmly, to set a crucial boundary. Of course, tenure helps with this.

Don’t believe what old farts tell you.

I’m twenty-two years into this career. Teaching and learning don’t change much, but schools do. Figure out what works for you. Find your boundaries and systems. As I say to students, take care of you.

Take the summer for yourself.


Summer is sacred. Soak it up. You’ll be a better person for it and a better, healthier teacher.